Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yemeni memo

This was to talk a bit about articles in obscure newspapers from countries other than ours. Now, one might ask, what is the point of reading articles in newspapers from other countries when one does not have the time to keep up with the latest Lindsay Lohan narrative here. Well, the thing is that newspapers with stilted reporting help in the development of stilted perceptions in their readers minds. These perceptions collate to create biases toward social and cultural situations. Biases reinforced over large groups of people manifest in the development and strengthening of stereotypes and mores of behavior directly influencing social actions and contracts…

A friend alerted me to a couple of articles in the Yemeni Times (no, I do not read the Yemeni times on a daily basis, in fact it was the first time I had been to this site, but the articles I looked at showed aspects of cultural reporting different from our own and blurb on the site indicates that this was Yemen’s most widely read newspaper).
In one article, the reporter takes a cozy,' let me reason this out to you over tea' kind of attitude and coolly develops an argument that centers around why beating up women might actually be good for the overall society and then goes on to talk about advantages inherent in violence against women. What really got to me was the campy attitude with which this person pulls off the narrative.

If a man and woman are husband and wife, the Qur’an provides solutions, firstly reaffirming any logical and acceptable reasons for such punishment. These solutions are in gradual phases and not just for women, but for men also.

For men, it begins with abandoning the marital bed, by opting to sleep elsewhere in the house. After this, they may discuss the matter with any respected person for the husband’s or the wife’s family, who could be in a position to advise the wife. If this also does not work, then the husband yields to beating the wife slightly. They do this because of a misunderstanding in the Quran, as the word says Darban, which is commonly understood today as beating. However, in Classic Arabic it means to set examples or to announce and proclaim. The more accurate meaning of this last one is that the husband finally has to set forth, to make a clear statement or proclamation, and if these measures fail, then divorce is preferable.

Fathers are responsible for their daughters’ behavior, but human rights organizations deny this too. Brothers also should take action regarding their sisters’ behavior, especially if their parents are too old or dead. If a daughter or sister makes a mistake – especially a moral one – that negatively affects the entire family and its reputation, what’s the solution by such organizations?


However, things are not as dire as enunciated. The same newspaper also reports that an 8 year old girl has finally resorted to end her marriage by going to court and filing for divorce from her 30 year old husband. No, I did not get the age of the girl wrong.

“My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law and no sheikh in this country would help me. I refused but I couldn’t stop the marriage,” Nojoud Nasser told the Yemen Times. “I asked and begged my mother, father, and aunt to help me to get divorced. They answered, ‘We can do nothing. If you want you can go to court by yourself.’ So this is what I have done,” she said.

Shatha Ali Nasser, lawyer in the Supreme Court confirmed that item number 15 in Yemeni civil law reads that “no girl or boy can get married before the age of 15." However, this item was amended in 1998 so parents could make a contract of marriage between their children even if they are under the age of 15


Every once in a while, it does help to see what is talked about in newspapers around us.

Sunil, 'Abuse', Computer Art

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Great insight on this topic, Sunil. I wonder if the author defending abuse had intended the piece for a non-Yemeni audience, making me wonder what's talked about when the topics are discussed in a more closed setting, without a public face...